Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health released a report on 19 October 2017 on the first ever global analysis of impacts from all forms of pollution that include air, water, soil, and occupational pollutions; exploring economic costs and social injustice that aims to elevate pollution issue squarely into the international development agenda, ready for solutions. Input was provided under the umbrella of the Global Alliance on Health & Pollution by major global actors, including World Bank, UNEP, UNDP, European Union, and dozens of bilateral and international organizations. According to the analysis economic costs of pollution are enormous. The biggest increases in pollution related deaths have been recorded in India and Bangladesh and India tops the world in pollution-related deaths accounting for 2.5 million followed by China with 1.8 million deaths, of the total 9 million world-wide in 2015. The authors of the report aim to end neglect of the issue across the political spectrum, and mobilize the will, resources, and the leadership needed to confront it.
Key findings of the Lancet Commission report are:
Welfare losses due to deaths and disease from pollution equate to US$4.6 trillion each year, which is equivalent to 6.2% of global economic output. Proportionately, low-income countries pay 8.3% of their gross national income to pollution-related death and disease, while high-income countries pay 4.5%. In the United States, each dollar invested in air pollution control has returned an estimated $30 (USD) in benefits (range, $4 – $88) since 1970. Higher IQs and increased productivity from removing lead from gasoline has returned an estimated $200 billion (range, $110-$300 billion) each year since 1980 ($6 trillion total). The claim that pollution control stifles economic growth and that poor countries must pollute to grow is false.
Transition toward a circular economy will reduce pollution-related disease and improve health. Decoupling development from the consumption of non-renewable resources will minimize the generation of pollution and other forms of waste by recycling and reuse.
The report is a clear signal to governments to put pollution prevention high on the national priority and tackling pollution must be integrated into the planning process. Robust implementation of laws and regulations, and engagement with the private sector, supporting city-level initiatives, should be at the core of the effort to tackle pollution. Reducing pollution, improving people’s well-being and ensuring economic growth requires coordinated effort by all.
Despite all the above impacts of pollution, the report analyses that pollution is not the inevitable consequence of economic development, and applying similar legislation and regulation from high-income countries to low- and middle-income countries could help to improve and protect health as countries develop and is optimistic with the view that the pollution is a winnable battle.
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